Now that 2023 has just come and gone, how do I feel that year went through? I know many different things went down, some good and some bad. I might as well start with the bad news since I usually like to get those out of the way first.
Let’s start with some of the major stars who sadly passed away this year. The first is Paul Reubens, who died of acute myelogenous leukemia and who you might recognize as Pee-Wee Herman. He kept his condition under wraps because he didn’t want others to make a fuss over it, just like Chadwick Bozeman did with his colon cancer. But arguably the most shocking of such deaths is Matthew Perry of ‘Friends’ fame. It turned out that he had a ketamine addiction and got off too much on the drugs, the results of which ended up taking their toll on him. Everyone was crushed by this, I can tell, especially the ‘Friends’ cast. I wouldn’t blame them, since his death seemed so sudden. And at 54 years old, it still seems like he died too young.
But it’s not just celebrity deaths that have circulated throughout 2023.
Among other things, the island of Maui in Hawaii had the bad luck of enduring nasty wildfires that ripped through most of the island and left towns like Lahaina scorched where it lunged forth. The wildfires circulated because of nearby hurricane winds, which sent some sparks flying straight to the island of Maui. And because the rain winds wouldn’t have let up, the sparks quickly spread across the island and expanded and sadly scorched a good portion of the jungles and homes on the island.
However, that’s not as devastating as the ongoing wars going on between Hamas and Israel. Israel was determined to attack Hamas destabilize their military operations and free hostages held captive there. At the same time, I suspect that parts of it center around religious differences, which sadly has been the norm in the Middle East for hundreds of years, maybe a few thousand years. And I pray that the wars going on over there don’t take such a drastic toll on the innocent civilians living there or onto all the precious monuments that could be caught in the crossfire. But most of all, I pray for there to be some resolution and potential peace between Hamas and Israel sometime soon.
Turkey and Syria didn’t fare any better, either, but mainly because of the earthquakes they endured. The earthquakes that struck them on February 6 had a magnitude of 7.8 and ripped many buildings and towns apart.
However, what I find equally baffling are the reports of what censorship ran amuck this year. To start, Roald Dahl. Early this year in February, the publishers of Roald Dahl’s books in the United Kingdom, Puffin Books, had the gall to deliberately rewrite some of Roald Dahl’s classic books to remove hurtful terms and make them more ‘acceptable,’ so-called, to today’s audiences. That is, by far, one of the stupidest, most self-destructive choices I’ve yet read.
Seriously, this is their idea of paying tribute to Roald Dahl and his work? By sucking up to today’s hypersensitive audiences without acknowledging why such precious works of art should never have been touched up? Has it occurred to anyone that they have unwittingly admitted to having no artistic taste because of them rewriting a precious author’s slew of classics and that they should be replaced with someone with more artistic integrity and less political biases and financial pursuits?
Fortunately, the outcry that unfolded in response to this news gathered as much steam as the censorship reports did, and it talked Puffin Books into continuing to publish Roald Dahl’s books as he originally wrote them alongside their rewritings of these books, not that their rewritings have a place anywhere anyway. Not only that, but the publishers of Roald Dahl’s books worldwide, including here in America, know better and stuck to publishing Roald Dahl’s books as he wrote them, just like anybody should. If the Roald Dahl fans’ loud outcries talked some sense into Puffin Books, then here’s hoping that it will stick.
On top of that, because of the forthcoming Disney and Hulu merger and to save money, Disney CEO Bob Iger ordered the removal of several films and TV shows on Disney+ and Hulu that were made exclusively for the services anyway. Unsurprisingly, many people, including its subscribers and the creators of said films and shows, were infuriated by the news, saying that removing them from the services and not giving them any shred of availability would make people think that they erased them from existence, as I thought they did. Besides, it’s not like these titles were licensed by anyone else, and they were under full Disney ownership, so what’s the point?
Thankfully, just like the outcries concerning Roald Dahl, the outcries concerning Disney+’s and Hulu’s removals were enough to convince Disney to release a significant handful of the films from Disney+ and Hulu into the digital market. Having watched one of those films removed from Disney+, The One and Only Ivan, it came across as a massive surprise and a huge relief. I knew that because they deserve more attention and money than Disney thinks, I paid top dollar for the movies I believe deserve such attention. I’m not talking about The One and Only Ivan, but also the following: both Stargirl movies, Better Nate Than Ever, Rosaline and Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. If none of you have seen those movies before, they’re available to view on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, or wherever you can access them so you can see them for yourself, as these circumstances may tell you immediately. Some works of art may not be met as favorably or with as much attention as others, but removing them for that reason is never the answer. At some point, they may have found some shred of audience somewhere. And to remove such media is to shove away those who like what they dished out under the misguided conviction that they should never acknowledge the less popular titles.
Now that we have these titles from Disney+ and Hulu, here’s hoping Disney will be smart about it and release the rest of what it removed from both services into mainstream availability someday soon.
Of course, it’s not just Disney+. It might have been a ripple effect of what HBO Max did last year when it removed a good chunk of its movies and TV shows, including Westworld, as it prepared to merge with Discovery. And now, streaming networks like Disney+ and Paramount+ started following suit, with Paramount+ removing shows like Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies from its streaming service. It’s ridiculous how so many streaming networks are prioritizing money over content nowadays. And that’s another reason why it’s making me lean more towards physical media: owning movies and TV shows that way will guarantee that the films and shows I have on DVD, Blu-Ray, or 4K Blu-Ray will stick with me forever. There’s no telling at this point how long any movie or TV show will be in their streaming services. So physical media deserves as much attention as can be bestowed upon them, too.
Of course, if you think that is crazy, get a load of what it inspired throughout Hollywood. And I, of course, am talking about the writers’ and actors’ strikes.
Many actors and writers in Hollywood felt short-sheeted when they felt like they were not being compensated the right amount they felt was owed to them. Plus, and understandably so, they expressed some concern about relying on artificial intelligence to do the writing and visual likenesses within movies and TV shows they helped put together. The writers went on strike from May 2 until September 27, while the actors followed suit from July 14 until November 9, and many of them upheld their positions collaboratively, resulting in this labor union becoming probably the most massive strike ever assembled in Hollywood since WGA and SAG’s collaborative strike in 1960.
Granted, it led to multiple TV shows and movies being delayed from their original release dates, but the strikes all paid off, in a way, when the writers and actors all reached agreements with the studio heads as to how they would be paid appropriately and move forth with their writing and acting duties.
However, the way I look at it, this outcome has a bit of good and bad sprinkled throughout. Such massive strikes finally led to some negotiations being made as far as AI reliance is concerned before it gets too far out of hand. Nonetheless, it was probably harmful regarding the delays going forth for the designated TV shows and movies affected by the strikes.
However, if the extra time gives the writers or producers more time to spit-shine what has been delayed, this may be a good thing.
But now, let’s focus our attention on all the other good things that happened in 2023 because, trust me, there is plenty to highlight here.
First, I may not follow sports in general very often, but after being stuck in a drought for so long, the Denver Nuggets finally made it to the top by winning the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, thus securing them their first-ever NBA Championship. Listening to how monumental this victory is for them reminds me a lot of when my family and I watched the Chicago Cubs finally win the World Series in 2016 after they were stuck in a drought for 108 years.
What I have left to say about good news may primarily concern entertainment news, but here goes anyway.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie turned in a massive profit shortly after it came out, and it became one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time and scored one of the all-time biggest openings for an animated movie, especially for this year. It turned out to have been so successful that after the onslaught of COVID-19 restrictions, this turning of profits gave Disney CEO Bob Iger hope for animation to be successful again, and not just movies. Given how they’ve performed this year, though, Disney might have some bugs to work out. But there’s nothing more encouraging than to see the executives and studios of Hollywood having each other’s back and helping them through their darkest times.
And speaking of theatrical successes, I have only one word to say.
That's right. Barbenheimer.
Ever since both Barbie and Oppenheimer opened on the same weekend on July 21, they made constant headlines together regarding how successful they’ve become at the box office, not to mention how so many theatergoers made a habit out of watching both movies back-to-back, like a double feature. Yet, many people already pointed out what a strange pair-up this is. Barbie is a generally lighthearted, if also quirky, movie about womanhood and the popularity and essence of the Barbie dolls. In contrast, Oppenheimer is a dark drama about the development of the nuclear bomb in World War II. Fortunately, however, both are phenomenal movies in their own right, and to see both of them so heavily acclaimed and successful side by side is enough to give even directors like Martin Scorsese hope for the theater-going experiences to only flourish after what we endured in 2020’s COVID pandemic.
And finally, we must all take a minute to commemorate 2023, for this is the 100th anniversary of both Disney and Warner Bros. Whenever we think of these two together, they shared plenty of things in common, even though they’re generally as good as apples and oranges. Regarding cartoons, Disney got off to a good start with Mickey Mouse, Donald, Goofy, and others, while Warner Bros. became a household name after creating the Looney Tunes and other such characters. But either way, both studios became equally successful with their string of classic films and for offering different cinematic tastes from the other. Personally, though, I think Disney is a touch more unique because of how well-versed it’s become with its animated repertoire, whereas Warner Bros. could easily be mistaken for any other major film studio. Regardless, both studios have come a long way in the hundred years they’ve been around, and I wish both studios the best of luck in whatever future projects they’ll pursue next. And may they keep entertaining the world as I know they’ve always done best.
And here are some bits of good news that you may not see coming. Either that, I was late to the game, or this is complete news to me. But here’s what’s going on.
A couple months or so after the wildfires spread through Maui, the local citizens already gathered together to compile the resources they need to reconstruct the villages, towns, and resorts of Maui. This stirred some controversy, however, seeing as not everyone had fully recuperated from the horrors the wildfires unleashed onto them, and they felt the they reignited their tourist trade too soon. Nonetheless, if the people of Hawaii became this confident in restoring Maui to its former glory before the wildfires took over, then that tells me they don’t have very far to go to get back to the exotic splendor they’re famous for.
But let’s get to the real surprise I was building up to: the reconstruction and re-erection of the Notre Dame Cathedral’s spire.
After the Notre Dame Cathedral had been primarily burnt to a crisp four years ago due to an accident, I believe the progress of restoring the Notre Dame Cathedral to its former glory had been kept under wraps, or so I think, until just recently when the news broke about the spire being wholly reconstructed.
But it’s not just the spire. The entire cathedral may be on its way to open soon, too. The plan is for the Notre Dame Cathedral to open again just in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Paris. I’m honestly tickled that the construction crew made such monumental progress in restoring the Notre Dame Cathedral to how it was before the majority of it was burned down. So, I cannot wait to see how successful again the Notre Dame Cathedral will be once it has reopened for business starting after the Summer Olympics next year.
And that’s what we need to look forward to as we embrace the new year: the chances that come with it. Whatever may happen, we must all prepare ourselves for whatever travesty may catch us with our pants down. But at the same time, we must also abide by what we hope to achieve. As is customary of the New Year, there’s no better place to start than with the resolutions we intend to jumpstart it with. And once we do so, only then will that guarantee a more opportunistic New Year and, in turn, a more prosperous future.
Please stay safe and healthy, everyone, as we all say farewell to 2023. Let’s welcome 2024 with open arms.
Happy New Year to everyone!
BBC. (2023, December 28). What is Hamas and why is it fighting with Israel in Gaza?. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-67039975
Bucksbaum, S. (2023, September 9). Paul Reubens’ official cause of death revealed. Entertainment Weekly. https://ew.com/celebrity/paul-reubens-official-cause-of-death-certificate/
CBS. (2023, December 29). After fires, Maui struggles to find balance between encouraging tourism and compounding trauma. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/maui-hawaii-wildfire-trauma-tourism-lahaina/
Nash, A. (2023, May 13). Bob Iger Praises The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Gives Disney Optimism. ComingSoon.net. https://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/1287905-bob-iger-praises-the-super-mario-bros-movie-gives-disney-optimism
Sharf, Z. (2023, October 9). Martin Scorsese Says “Barbenheimer” Offers “Hope for a Different Cinema to Emerge” From Studios; Defends “Flower Moon” Three-Hour Plus Runtime: “Give Cinema Some Respect.” Variety. https://variety.com/2023/film/news/martin-scorsese-barbenheimer-defends-flower-moon-runtime-1235749349/
TODAY. (2023). Notre Dame to reopen in a year: See progress that’s been made. YouTube. Retrieved December 31, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vUTQ_aefBU&t=30s